Next week public hearings will be held on the two bills on which I am the lead sponsor:
House Bill 602 Campaign Finance – Affiliated Business Entities Attribution of Contributions
Hearing on 2/22 at 1 pm in the House Ways and Means Committee
I have introduced this bill many times during past legislative sessions. It passed out of the House several years only to be defeated in the Senate. Common Cause is a strong supporter of this bill which modifies and expands an existing provision that requires campaign contributions by related corporations to be considered as being made by one contributor, limiting the total amount of contributions those corporations can make. The bill expands the limitation to apply to “business entities,” including general or limited partnerships, limited liability companies (LLC), and real estate investment trusts (REIT’s), as well as corporations, specifying that campaign contributions made by two or more business entities are considered to be make by a single contributor if (1) one business entity is a wholly owned subsidiary of another; or (2) the business entities are owned or controlled by at least 80% of the same individual or business entities. The bill would take effect in July 2012.
House Bill 629 Maryland Renter’s Property Tax Relief Program
Hearing on 2/21 at 1pm in the House Ways and Means Committee
This bill will help close the benefit gap between tax breaks given to home owners and financial help given to low-income renters. It will remove an existing unfair restriction in the law, thus allowing renters under 60 years old who do not have dependents under 18 living with them to qualify for a rent rebate based on household income.
Other bills of interest:
House Bill 836 Income Tax - Repeal of the 1997 Tax Reduction
The 1997 Tax Reduction bill was debated on the floor of the House fifteen years ago. I was the only delegate to stand up and speak against this bill. Twenty-four other delegates joined me in voting against this short-sighted bill.
The economy was considerably stronger back then, and there was no hue and cry for a tax cut. Nevertheless, the legislature was determined to pass one. It is generally agreed now that tax payers barely noticed the hundred dollars or so that they saved. The ink was barely dry on the bill when expressions of regret by delegates began.
It is projected that if we pass House Bill 836 and repeal the 1997 Tax Reduction bill, it will amount to several hundred million dollars of additional revenue annually.
Environmental Matters Committee
This week we held the public hearing on House Bill 445 Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012.
This is one of the bills in the Governor’s legislative package for this year, and he opened the public hearing with a strong statement of support from the Secretaries of the Departments of Planning, Natural Resources and the Environment.
This legislation alters specified required elements of local county comprehensive land use plans. When I was a member of the Howard County Council in the late 70’s I first became aware of the friction between state and county government regarding land use planning. That friction continues to this day. The counties feel strongly that they should maintain control of their own plans, and to a large extent I agree with them. This bill would set guidelines the counties must follow in preparing their comprehensive plans, and I believe that is a good idea.
By way of illustration, when I became County Executive in 1986, I learned that Howard County was one of the few, if not the only, counties in the Patapsco and Patuxent watersheds that had no requirements for setbacks for land development from streams. I proceeded to prepare and introduce legislation to the County Council to remedy that practice which was causing serious environmental damage. Although there was very strong opposition from many in the development community, the County Council at that time had the courage to pass the bills. This is a good example of an instance when clear enforceable guidelines from the state would have been appropriate.
At the public hearing the Maryland Association of Counties expressed concern about HB 445. I anticipate that there will be numerous work sessions on this legislation before we take a vote in committee. My hope is that clear thinking and consideration for the good of our planet will prevail.
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